Minnesota United turned the ball over near midfield late in Saturday's tense and important 1-0 victory, quickly creating a lopsided counterattack aimed the other way.
Before Austin FC midfielder Alexander Ring could advance the ball, Loons newcomer Joseph Rosales closed fast and from far behind. His hard shoulder bump sent Ring tumbling forward and the referee whistling a foul that stopped play — and an Austin attack.
It also left Loons coach Adrian Heath again admiring a young Honduras international obtained in August on an 18-month loan from his club in Panama's top division.
"He's just 20," said Heath, whose seventh-place team has five games remaining starting Wednesday against formidable Philadelphia at Allianz Field. "We liked him before. We like him even more now that we've got him in the building and we've seen what we've got. We think he's got a really bright future."
"Before" was CONCACAF's Olympic qualifying tournament in March in Mexico, where Rosales and his U-23 Honduran team met the Loons' Hassani Dotson, San Jose's young star and Bloomington's own Jackson Yueill and Montreal's Djordje Mihailovic in the midfield.
"He more than held his own," Heath said.
So the Loons went and acquired Rosales and are competing with Austin FC to sign his Honduran national teammate Kervin Arriaga, a 23-year-old defensive midfielder.
Rosales suggests a higher hand was involved getting him from Honduras' 2-1 victory that sent Dotson's U.S. team home in Olympic qualifying to teammates in Minnesota.
"Honestly, I think God already had it planned out on the table," Rosales said through an interpreter while crediting his agent as well. "Talks happened and thankful in the end I was able to come to Minnesota. … I noticed he was the one I played against in Mexico and I was happy we could be not only teammates, but friends, too."
Rosales has played in four games as a second-half sub and Saturday in Austin came on for striker Adrien Hunou in the 78th minute to clog the midfield and protect a 1-0 lead.
He soon did so with a defensive play that possibly saved a tying goal.
"They had more players on the attack," Rosales said. "That's something I learned a lot in Panama: Whenever you're down players, you should commit a foul. Not a hard foul, but a tactical one and do it well."
Heath projects Rosales as both an MLS central midfielder and left back because of his smarts and ability to play in tight spaces. Heath also calls him a talent who in many ways plays beyond his years.
"Experience," Heath said about Rosales' smart defensive play. "Understanding the gravity of where he is and what could lead from that. He was brought up in a hard school, which it is down there. All the things we take for granted, they don't have and you can see it in his play.
"He's very hungry, trains every day really well. We're really pleased with him."
Loons goalkeeper Tyler Miller calls Rosales "a good kid to have around" and "fun to train with."
"I try to speak a little Spanish and he speaks English to me so we try to teach each other some words," Miller said. "He does a really good job when he comes in. He has that dynamic, that flair."
Heath credits Rosales for making such a big move alone at such a young age.
"I don't think people realize what it's like for a 20-year-old kid to suddenly go to a new country, don't speak the language," Heath said. "But he's trying."
Rosales called the transition difficult "because of the language, the climate, even the food. But you adapt and work hard and get along with your teammates, who now are my family. I feel happy to be here and hopefully stay here longer."